The last time I published a technical article, I was met with some really positive feedback. So, Im going to follow this rabbit hole a little further. Since I have been writing everyday, there seems to be plenty of time to explore a little. Plus, my computer decided to completely clean itself out. Everything (and I really mean everything including my sign in for wordpress) was deleted, buried in an unknown digital graveyard to live out its afterlife.
Typically, people will refer to a joint in a streamer as articulation. A place where the fly is designed to flex with a rigid shank on either side of the joint. As fond as people are of articulated streamers (both dual hook and looped shank), there is a far more subtle area of the fly I like to refer to as the “Break Point”. This break point is a transition between materials tied on the hook and is often destroyed by an articulation. Greater motion with less force can be applied to a fly with a break point. It’s all about delivering the energy you create by stripping a streamer and its ability to continue that motion through momentum. An articulation will flex and absorb that energy by folding in half. It’s very much like wiggling a chain and a fly rod. The chain will hang lifeless, and when force is applied, the movement is absorbed by each link in the chain. The fly rod, given the same force, will continue wiggling after force is applied. To make this more direct, a broken fly rod doesn’t wiggle like it should either. Hence, underwater, an articulated fly must rely on constant and greater force to move as it should and you should spend a little more time thinking about material transitions.
Put simply, the break point is the point in the fly where dense, sturdy materials meet those of a typically longer and more supple sort. Usually these transitions are found at the rear of the hook shank. The break point is easy to point out in flies like the Dahlberg Diver, but can often be much more complex and hidden as the break point is elongated. For example, bunny leeches with a bunny tail have a break point at the tie in for the tail. Whereas, in a fly such as the Derp, the break point is at the center of the more rigid structure (more on this in a minute, I promise) and creates a curve rather than a hard angle. Like the bunny leech, most streamers have a “hard break point” where the fly has soft, long fibers tied in on the rear of the fly. The harder a break point is (how sharp the angle is at the transition), the more likely the fly is to foul and have its tail wrapped around the hook shank.
How flexible the break point is can be a two-edged sword. Sometimes you want a hard break point when you are oriented vertically over structure. That wiggly tail can provide movement in a place where linear movement is difficult. However, that same fly stripped over open water will fold in half on the pause. In my experience, fish hate this. I mean, when I see a cow in pasture, I look at its cuts. Where my burger is going to come from is important. If the cow is unhealthy, it is apparent. Now, imagine that same cow walking along normally and suddenly folding in half and emerging again walking normally. I don’t want that burger anymore. I think this hitch is what drives a smallie to haul over to your fly and suddenly spook when you stop retrieving, only to come back once it moves again. If you see this often, you are probably almost there in design. Continue tinkering.
There is an exception to the rule. Moving water. If you are fishing moving water, the fly is constantly on the move and great force is constantly being applied to your streamer. Kinda like one of those silly “fly tester” aquarium things. Yes, it does give you a read on how the fly will swim under constant motion in perfect conditions, but we aren’t always fishing moving water with our flies. For me, it is incredibly rare. Quite frankly, because our moving water usually has no warm water fish and when it does, access is near impossible. If you do fish a lot of moving water, the break point has less importance. Hook orientation and balance are the keys to success there.
Maintaining shape and profile are critical under stillwater conditions. Back to the cow, either folded in half or front legs jutting out vertically from its shoulders, you will notice that. But three legs or one horn or an odd color can be overlooked in the proper circumstances. The same can be said for your flies. Sure, you tied a perfectly stereotypical brown cow, which is mostly what the streamer world focuses on. However, the most important aspects of streamers deal with profile and motion. Your perfectly tied brown cow that is levitating and turning inside out like a cheap 80’s horror movie will attract the wrong kind of attention.
This is getting long, bear with me.
Break point elongation is critical in flies that you want to work with long pauses. Accomplishing this is quite the easy task indeed. First, the fly must be light. rather than using extra mass on the fly, use a weighted fly line to drag your fly to the depths. This creates a slight forward motion on the fly to keep it from binding. Now, for the big number two.
Decide where you want the break point to be in terms of total length of the fly. Like last time, break it down into thirds. This time, only work in the center third. The forward third is reserved for techniques enough to write a book. The rear third is pointless.
In this example, the Derp has a slightly rearward and very soft break point with the hook far in front. It is a very unexaggerated motion, more of a drifting, legato motion on the pause. No hard turns or anything of the like. It can be worked with speed, but designed to be general purpose. And such are rear break point flies. The elongation of the break point is created by making a kind of mesh. Both EP and bucktail are notoriously grabby and the use of polar flash binds it all together. When the hook drops due to gravity, the structural integrity of these materials spreads the force over a longer distance and keeps the overall profile in tact. Even though the tie in transition is on the rear of the hook, through different types of materials like the sturdy bucktail add rigidity and structure to the more supple and lengthy EP.
Transversely, the Laser Yak has a forward and slightly harder break point with mass behind the transition tie in. The break point is elongated again, but not as much, by utilizing structural materials (in this case laser dub) interlocked into longer, softer fibers. The elongation is shorter due to the suppleness of the fibers but creates more lateral motion when mass and resistance are properly added into the equation.
Keep your break point in mind next time you are staring down that fly on the vice. How can you manipulate it to get your fly to do what you want? The more forward the break point, the more lateral motion the fly will have. The more rear, more subtle motion. The harder a break point, the sharper the flex and more loss in momentum. The softer the break point, the more momentum can be maintained. Have fun and go tinker!